Nothing prepared Pat Nixon for the day in February 2011 when her husband, Stan, only 61 at the time, suffered a massive stroke. Now paralyzed on his right side, he also suffered brain damage because his stroke occurred in the pons, or brainstem, which governs consciousness and communication between the brain and the body. “My entire life changed that day, and it will never be the same,” Nixon says.
After one month in rehab—the most time their insurance covered—Stan came home, and Nixon has been a full-time caregiver ever since. “He needs help with everything,” says Nixon. “My days are spent helping him dress, and doing everything else. I don’t leave him except to go for groceries or prescription refills,” she says. “I don’t go to bed at night until I’ve given him his meds and put him to bed. I do this every single day.”
Despite the hardships, Nixon says “I wouldn’t change my decision today if I had to do it all over.”
No one who finds herself in the role of full-time caregiver ever expected to be there. Yet 65 million people in the U.S. alone are family caregivers according to the National Family Caregivers Association. They spend their days and nights in service of spouses, children, and aging parents, usually unpaid and too often un-thanked.
Sharecare is proud to honor these caregivers and offer them information and support.
Nixon is a member of the caregivers support group on Sharecare’s Daily Strength (her username is Gwen21). She says she’s made wonderful friends on the site who support and love each other. “I don’t know how I could have coped all this time without DS and my group of DS friends,” says Nixon.
Sharecare experts offer these tips for taking care of yourself if you’re a caregiver:
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